by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjung, Lim Kit Siang, in Petaling Jaya on Friday, September 23, 1994:
I accept Peter Chin’s challenge to visit the Bakun dam site and leave it to the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment to draw up a comprehensive programme to get full briefing from the Department of Environment, Ekran Bhd and the affected Sarawakians.
Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment, Peter Chin Fah Kui yesterday denied that Ekran Bhd., the developer of the RMI5 billion Bakun Dam project in Sarawak, had violated the Environmental Impact Assessment regulations in commencing its RM50 million preparatory work at the site.
Chin said that under the law, resort development of 50ha or more required an Environmental Impact Assessment study but since Ekran Bhd. had only cleared three hectares of land for the construction of the workers’ camp, administrative office and lodging facilities, there was no violation.
Chin seems to have become the Public Relations Officer of Ekran Bhd. instead of being the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment.
If such an explanation and self-defence had come from Ekran Bhd., there would be nothing unusual. But it is most shocking that such a ‘defence’ on behalf of Ekran Bhd. should emanate from the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment,
It shows the power that is being wielded by Ekran Bhd. that it could get the Deputy Minister for Science, Technology and Environment to become its spokesman and apologist.
Peter Chin was very outspoken a month ago when he warned that the Department of Environment (DOE) would take action against new development projects without conducting EIA studies first.
Of course, Peter Chin was referring to golf courses in Peninsular Malaysia and not to the RM15 billion Bakun dam project, as such a warning does not apply to Bakun dam project.
The RM50 million preparatory work for the RM15 billion Bakun dam project cannot be separated from the Bakun dam project proper – for the construction of the workers’ camp, administrative office and lodging facilities at the Belaga site must be regarded as part and parcel of the Bakun dam project.
Peter Chin cannot hide the fact that the Ekran is being given special treatment in the RM15 billion Bakun project.
On January 30, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamed launched the RM15 million Bakun dam project, at Kuching Santubong Resort and on 19th September 1994, the Prime Minister conducted the earth-breaking ceremony for the Bakun project at Belaga before any EIA had been approved or completed.
The message is very clear, that the Bakun dam project of Ekran Bhd. had the full blessings of the Prime Minister, which tantamout to a ‘black-cheque’ to Ekran Bhd. by Federal Government to proceed full steam with the Bakun project and an assurance that neither environmental factors nor EIA, reports would be allowed to stand, in the way of the project.
Furthermore, who would spend RM50 million as preparatory work if there is no iron-clad guarantee that the Bakun dam project would not face any EIA hitches and problems?
With this background, the Department of Environment seems to be completely irrelevant to the development planning process.
Peter Chin challenged me to visit the Bakun site to see whether there was any environmental damage rather than being an armchair critic.
I accept Peter Chin’s challenge to visit the Bakun dam site and I leave it to Peter Chin to draw up a comprehensive programme for my visit which must provide a full briefing to me not only by the Department of Environment officials, Ekran Bhd. but also by the affected Sarawakians.
I hope Peter Chin can arrange for such a visit within a forthnight.